You are an expert in chronic pain. You live with it day in day out. So how will you benefit from chronic pain management?
Tracking pain is useful on many levels.
Our brains do a great job of maximising or minimising the effect of pain, dependent on other factors for example; mood, temperature, and recent or past experience.
Therefore, it can be problematic getting a true picture of pain levels. This poses a problem not least when you’re asked to rate your pain by health professionals in their micro-window of time, but importantly when you try to evaluate which methods of pain relief and treatment are working.
The only way to see which treatments and approaches are working, and which aren’t, is by getting the bigger picture through tracking.
A TRACKING CONUNDRUM
Chronic pain poses a unique set of issues when it comes to tracking.
Pain is subjective. It’s not just subjective from person to person, but also within the person themselves.
It’s not unusual for a chronic pain sufferer to be so used to living with a specific pain that they will now rate it lower on a pain scale.
We, and the scientific community, simply don’t yet know enough about it.
Lastly, pain is an individual beast. There may be similarities from one sufferer to another with the same condition but the reality remains that pain is an intensely personal and individual thing.
Therefore, track pain in a way that will give you the information you need, and the tools to make the right decisions regarding your treatment approach.
8 STEPS TO CHRONIC PAIN MANAGEMENT
When tracking pain, try and include a range of variables to give you a complete picture. These include:
1. ACTIVITY MONITOR
Describe all the activities you did during the day. If it was exercising, what you did and for how long. If you were at work, how long did you sit for? Was your workday strenuous? This can sometimes help identify occupational hazards that could contribute to your pain.
2. WHEN DID YOU FEEL PAIN?
When did it start? For each activity, note when there was any associated pain.
3. HOW LONG DID IT LAST?
Was the pain constant or intermittent? If intermittent, how frequent was it?
4. RATE YOUR PAIN
Chances are, you will know how to rate your pain. If not, you can use something as simple (and hilarious) as Allie Brosh’s representation of the pain scale:
0: Hi. I am not experiencing any pain at all. I don’t know why I’m even here.
1: I am completely unsure whether I am experiencing pain or itching, or maybe I just have a bad taste in my mouth.
2: I probably just need a Band Aid.
3: This is distressing. I don’t want this to be happening to me at all.
4: My pain is not f—ing around.
5: Why is this happening to me??
6: Ow. Okay, my pain is super legit now.
7: I see Jesus coming for me and I’m scared.
8: I am experiencing a disturbing amount of pain. I might actually be dying. Please help.
9: I am almost definitely dying.
10: I am actively being mauled by a bear.
11: Blood is going to explode out of my face at any moment.
Too Serious For Numbers: I probably have Ebola. It appears that I may also be suffering from Stigmata and/or pinkeye
5. DESCRIBE THE PAIN
Once you’ve rated your pain, get more specific. Where exactly was the pain in your body? Was it stabbing? Dull? Throbbing? Burning? How long did the pain last for? Did your next activity help or aggravate it?
6. YOUR MEDICATION
When you take any medication note the time of day, what you’ve taken and how much you’ve taken. If you need to take more heavy-hitting medication, record if there were any side effects and how long until you feel pain relief.
This is especially important when taking, for example, CBD oil which relies on you noticing how your body responds, in order to adjust to the dose that’s right for you.
Keep a record of anything throughout the course of the day that you couldn’t accomplish as a result of your pain.
8. REFLECT ON YOUR DAY
Keeping a diary of your day as a whole helps to gauge your overall well-being. Was it an easy day or a rough day? How did you feel emotionally? Some days you may have pain that rates at a 9 or 10, but still feel like it was an easy day!
Pain tracking does require collating a lot of data from multiple variables and it’s easy to become overloaded with data, or rather overwhelmed by the notion of collating it.
The trick is to find a handy, convenient way to record all your information.
Some may use a simple spreadsheet (although not very portable), others may use the Note functionality on their smartphone.
But the easiest way is perhaps to investigate some of the apps out there on the market, and let technology do the hard work for them.
- Fibro Mapp: This doesn’t just track pain but other variables such as sleep and emotions, making it a powerful tool for chronic conditions such as Fibromyalgia, ME, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and many arthritic diseases.
- CatchMyPain: A great tracker as well as a means of connecting with other chronic pain sufferers in a similar boat.
- Painscale: A free app for tracking your pain and receiving analytics.
Tracking pain can take a bit of getting used to, but it’s worthwhile persevering for at least 6 weeks.
This way you see the benefit of the bigger picture and historical analysis that helps make informed decisions about the next treatment or remedy to try.
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